This is the moment Parma senior Jordan Brand has been waiting for. He has exactly one minute to out-pose the other bodybuilders on stage at the Northern Michigan Natural Bodybuilding Championships, one minute to convince the judges that he is deserving of an overall champion title.
A Skrillex song blasts from the speakers as competitors push and shove their way to the front of the stage, each trying to out-pose the other. Brand, though, remains calm, keeping a smile on his face as he strikes the poses he has spent the past months perfecting, showing off the conditioning he has spent years working for.
It does not take long for that minute to expire, and the judges soon announce the winners, crowning Brand the first place middleweight and overall champion. While the final pose-down may have only lasted only a moment, Brand has been working for this title for years.
“Just seeing all of that hard work and everybody’s efforts come together and achieve the outcome that we’ve been striving for, it’s one of those memories you don’t forget,” Brand said.
After joining a local gym in high school, Brand began competing in bodybuilding competitions while in college. He is currently in the midst of applying to medical school, and hopes to one day work in an emergency medicine field. Having recently won the overall title at the Northern Michigan Natural Bodybuilding Championships, Brand attributes his success not only to all the hours spent at the gym, but to all those who support him along the way. His success, both athletically and academically, is a testament to the belief that hard work will always be rewarded.
It was not too long ago, before Brand began his bodybuilding career, that he was a clumsy middle-school boy just trying to find his place. In an attempt to try and fit in better with his peers, Brand decided he wanted to play sports, but he found that he was hardly strong enough to shoot a basketball from the free throw line.
That same year, Brand’s father gave him a book on bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Brand began to lift weights after becoming involved in football and wrestling, both of which he played into high school.
During his senior year, however, Brand suffered injuries that prevented him from continuing to play football or keep wrestling. As a result, Brand joined Pro’s Gym in Vandercook that happened to be home to a number of bodybuilders and powerlifters. It was there that he caught the eye of experienced bodybuilder Paul Coats.
“He just was a hard worker, and I could tell he was someone I wanted to spend time with, someone I wanted to help out,” Coats said.
The two hit it off right away, and it was not long before Coats and Brand were training together on a regular basis, jokingly referring to one another as Simba and Mufasa from The Lion King.
“Paul kind of took me under his wing and has been teaching me ever since,” Brand said. “He encouraged me to do my first show two years ago, and the rest is just history from there.”
Since meeting Coats, Brand has logged a countless number of hours at the gym, though he attributes much of his success and enthusiasm to others, insisting that bodybuilding is more of a group effort than most people realize. Beyond the seemingly obvious support of coaches, training partners and family members, Brand recognizes the support he has received from some easily overlooked individuals.
“Everyone from our cook at the house, who makes sure there’s always enough chicken in the fridge, to friends who are just supporting me,” Brand said. “It’s the accumulation of the work of a very large group of people.”
Albion first-year Anthony Maddux is one of Brand’s training partners, and says that training with Brand is a consistently motivational and inspiring experience.
“It’s really intense,” Maddux said, “But it’s pretty motivating. Jordan always tries to push you to do better and he gets the best out of you, and I think that helps get the best out of him.”
Throughout the year, most of Brand’s efforts are focused on increasing his body mass by working out and eating foods that will help him to gain weight. In the last few months leading up to a competition, Brand begins to follow a strict diet and purposely dehydrates himself in order to eliminate body fat and water-weight. During these few months, Brand is so dehydrated and carb-depleted that he prefers to remain rather isolated.
“I have my headphones in a lot, and in the gym I just try to keep to myself,” Brand said. “I try to just zone everything out for the last couple of weeks. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”
As a pre-med student majoring in biochemistry, Brand admits that it is often difficult for him to find ample time to focus equally on school and bodybuilding. Brand says that school and his future career will always remain his priority, but also says that all the dedication required for show preparation has caused him to realize that if he can get through the difficult workouts and bad days, he can get through anything.
“Doing all the dieting and dehydrating and stuff has made school easier almost, just because I know there are harder things out there,” Brand said.
According to Maddux though, if Brand had to face more difficult tasks, he would handle them with ease.
“He’s one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met,” Maddux said. “Even when things are tough and they seem impossible, that doesn’t discourage him. He really goes out there and gets what he wants.”
Getting what he wants, however, is not always as easy as it may seem. In order to win the overall title, Brand had to make a number of sacrifices, both personally and socially, and put his complete trust in his coach’s favorite saying – that hard work pays off, every time.
Coach Coats, a father to two daughters, claims that he would be proud to have Brand as a son-in-law. It is Coats, according to Brand, who taught him one of his most important life lessons – that hard work always pays off, though maybe not in the exact way one would expect it to.
This lesson that Coats has passed down, says Brand, is constantly exemplified in both his training workouts and competitions, and is part of what makes bodybuilding so meaningful to him.
“Just knowing that all of our hard work had just produced the result that we were striving so hard for, it taught me a lot about sacrifice, about patience, about how to give 100% effort to something for an extended duration, and how gratifying it is when you reach your goal.”